If you offer appointments, having an informative Contact Us page is a must. However, if you rely on visitors calling you during office hours, then you may struggle to convert potential leads into paying customers.
Here, an online booking calendar can be your secret weapon. By giving visitors the power to book their own appointments, you should be able to notice a surge in your conversion rates.
In this post, we’ll look at the reasons why you may want to set up a WordPress booking calendar. We will then show you how to create a complete booking system on your site, using a single WordPress plugin. Let’s get started!
An Introduction to Booking Calendars (And Why You May Want to Use Them)
A booking calendar plugin can help you automate the entire booking process. By adding this feature to your WordPress website, your customers will be able to book an appointment at any time of the day or night. This includes times when your staff wouldn’t be on-hand to process the appointment request manually. In this way, you can accept bookings around the clock, which can help you maximize your conversions.
However, this automation tool isn’t limited to the initial booking. Many WordPress booking calendars also come with a system of pre-built email and SMS templates. You can use these templates to send appointment reminders. These can help you reduce costly no-shows and last-minute cancellations, without requiring any manual intervention.
Depending on your choice of booking plugin, you may even be able to request up-front deposits. This can be a powerful way to ensure customers actually follow through and attend their appointments.
Even if you aren’t charging a fee for your services or events, a booking calendar can help you organize your schedule. For example, you might run complementary events to help raise your profile, or build relationships with your target audience. Here, a booking calendar can help you promote your brand to people who are visiting your website, and provide them with an easy way to sign up for your events or services.
How to Set Up a WordPress Booking Calendar (In 4 Steps)
There are various different booking calendar plugins available. For this tutorial, we’ll be using the Amelia plugin as it supports a wide range of different event types. It also integrates with both Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar.
This plugin even comes with a series of ready-made email and SMS templates that you can use to send reminder notifications, or inform attendees about important changes or updates. This includes rescheduled events and cancellations.
If you haven’t done so already, you’ll need to purchase WordPress.com Business or eCommerce Plan in order to install third-party tools on your WordPress.co site. Then, you can simply install and activate the Amelia plugin and you’re ready to build a complete booking system.
Let’s look at how you can set up a fully-functional booking system on your website, in just four steps.
Step 1: Add a Category and Service
In Amelia, a service is the activity that customers will book via your website. Before you can publish your booking calendar, you’ll need to create at least one service category.
If you offer a large number of different services, then creating multiple categories may make it easier to organize your appointments. However, if you only require a single category, then this will appear on your website’s backend only. This means that it won’t be visible to the people using your booking calendar.
To create one or more service categories, navigate to Amelia > Services in your WordPress dashboard:
Then, select Add Category. You can now give your service category a descriptive name:
Once you’re happy with your category, you can select the little blue checkmark. Next, click on Add Service. This launches a panel where you can input all of the information about your service, including its name, category, duration, employee, and price:
This panel contains a lot of additional settings and fields that you may want to configure, depending on the service in question. The available options include setting a maximum and minimum capacity, and specifying whether this is a recurring appointment:
When you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, go ahead and click on Save. This service should now appear in your WordPress dashboard:
If required, you can repeat these steps to add additional categories and services to your booking calendar. However, as long as you’ve created at least one category and service, you’re ready to progress to the next step.
Step 2: Choose a Time and Date
Amelia is a flexible plugin that can support everything from a simple one-off event, to a recurring appointment, or even a multi-day conference. To start populating your booking calendar, you’ll need to navigate to Amelia > Events. You can then select New Event:
In the subsequent panel, give your event a name. Then, specify the dates and the times when this appointment will take place. If the event spans multiple days but starts and ends at the same time, you can select the date range using the calendar dropdown. Then, simply enter the start and end times once:
If the event has varying start and end times, then click on Add Date. You can then enter different times for each date:
If this event is a regular fixture, then select the following checkbox: This is a recurring event. When prompted, enter how often this event should appear in your booking calendar.
Next, you’ll need to specify the timeframe when attendees can reserve their spot. By default, booking will open as soon as you create the event, and will continue until the event starts. If required, you can tweak these default settings to create a custom booking period. A shorter booking period can help drive conversions by creating a sense of urgency.
The next step is to enter the cost of attendance. If you’re creating a recurring event, then this is the entry fee for a single event only, and not a cumulative price for all recurrences of this event:
After setting your price, you may want to request a deposit. This can help you reduce the number of costly no-shows.
There are some additional settings that you may want to explore. However, this is all you need to create an event. One you’re happy with the information you’ve entered, feel free to click on Save.
Step 3: Display Your Booking Calendar
Now that you’ve populated your calendar, it’s time to publish it. With Amelia, you have a choice of three different booking calendar formats.
With the step-by-step booking wizard, customers can configure their booking in a few simple clicks. This makes the booking process very straightforward, which is perfect for visitors who are either booking an appointment on-the-go or using a smaller device such as a smartphone or tablet:
Search / Filter
Next is Amelia’s front-end booking search. With this format, customers can search for appointments via a selection of filters. You may want to opt for front-end booking search if you offer a wide variety of services. With these filters at their disposal, customers should have no problems finding an appointment that meets all of their needs:
Finally, there’s the booking catalog. This view displays categories as cards containing the name, the number of services that belong to that category, plus any relevant images.
Some services are pretty straightforward and require little explanation. However, if you have a lot of things to say about a particular service, then the booking catalog may be a good fit. This format is also a good choice for more costly services, as it provides lots of space where you can convince customers to splash out:
Display Chosen Format With A Block
Regardless of your decision, you’ll need to create a page or post where you’ll display your chosen format. Then, open this page for editing as normal, and click on the little + button. This creates a new Gutenberg block. You can now search for the name of the calendar view that you want to embed on this page:
When the appropriate block appears, give it a click. WordPress will now add this block to your webpage. Simply save your changes, and the completed booking calendar will now appear on your WordPress website.
Step 4: Configure Your Notifications
The Amelia booking plugin comes with a wide range of email templates that you can use to keep your attendees up-to-date. This includes reminding customers about their upcoming appointments, plus notifications about events that you’ve had to cancel or reschedule.
You can view all of the available templates by navigating to Amelia > Notifications:
These notifications can help ensure that all of your appointments run smoothly and provide a better customer experience. They can also help you avoid no-shows and any other misunderstandings that may result in lost earnings.
Before you can use this system of emails, you’ll need to configure your notification settings. In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Amelia > Settings:
Now, select View Notification Settings. This launches a panel where you can enter your sender name and email:
By default, Mail Service is set to PHP Mail. However, some mail servers may flag PHP Mail messages as spam. It can also take a significant amount of time to send messages via this service. For this reason, Amelia recommends using an alternative mail server, such as SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) or WP Mail.
After configuring these settings, navigate to Amelia > Notifications. You can now work your way through each template in turn, and make any necessary adjustments. For example, you might change the contents to more closely reflect your brand and voice:
Each template comes with a set of dynamic placeholders that you can insert into your messages. You can use these placeholders to communicate important information such as the event’s starting time.
On this screen, you can also toggle specific notifications on and off, depending on whether you want to use each specific email in your booking calendar system. Remember to save your changes when you’re ready.
Start Booking Clients
The Internet has completely revolutionized the customer/business relationship. If you expect your clients to call or even physically visit your business, then you may struggle to fill your appointment book.
Let’s quickly recap how to set up a WordPress booking calendar, using the Amelia plugin:
- Add different services and events to your calendar.
- Specify a date and time for each service or event.
- Display your booking calendar in an accessible format.
- Configure your notifications, such as appointment reminders and cancellations.
You are now ready to start booking clients.
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